Champions Center named after Werth Family

UConn officially opened its $40 million basketball training facility on Friday christening the name of the facility after the first major donors to contribute.[/sny-editorial]

The Champions Center will be named after Peter J. and Pamela H. Werth, who pledged a multimillion dollar donation to get the project started.

The two donations, totaling $7 million, were critical for the project, the first University building financed entirely with private donations. The new $40 million basketball training facility is adjacent to the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, the campus home of the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s and women’s basketball championship teams.

“We believe the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center is the key to sustaining UConn’s tradition of great basketball,” said Coleman Levy ’61 (CLAS), ’62 MA, ’66 JD, chairman of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors.

“Built solely with private donations, the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center is a real tribute to the steadfastness of our friends and alumni and their willingness to support UConn’s transformation and vision for the future,” he added. The Werths’ latest gift of $2.3 million followed their previous $4.7 million pledge.

The 75,000-plus square-foot building features complete facilities for the men’s and women’s championship basketball programs. The center includes common areas designed for academic support, sports medicine and strength training, along with separate practice gyms, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and video analysis facilities.

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UConn men: Ready to run

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn. — Kevin Ollie pulled freshman Rakim Lubin over and told his burly forward the truth.  

“The only way you gonna play is if you rebound,” Ollie said.

Lubin was matched up in a 1-on-1 rebounding drill and was too passive for the UConn men’s head coach’s liking. Lubin, 260-pounds, has to hit the boards aggressively. Everyone on UConn is going to have to hit the boards. The message was sent on the first day.

That was drilled home in a half hour 1-on-1 rebounding drill.

The reigning national champions then finished with a fastbreak drill. All five players had to score a fastbreak layup in 26 seconds time. That’s five fastbreaks in 26 seconds.

It wasn’t by accident that Ollie ended the first practice of the season on Saturday with those two drills.

UConn wants to run this season, a lot. And to do that, the Huskies have to rebound, a lot. Everything else is secondary.

UConn no longer has Shabazz Napier, the Final Four’s MOP and bailout shooter extraordinaire.  The Huskies want offense to be easier now.

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“John Toner’s decision to leave his New England neighbors and move Connecticut into the Big East Conference changed UConn Athletics forever. John was a transformational figure on the national collegiate stage, including being a driving force in the late 1970s and early 1980s to add women’s athletics under the NCAA umbrella. Personally, John gave me a great start as head basketball coach at Connecticut and through the years he was always available to me for wise counsel and friendship.”

— Jim Calhoun on John Toner, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 91

“Obviously this is a really sad day for the college community, the University of Connecticut and me personally. I owe a debt of gratitude to John that can never be repaid. We become friends. I looked up to him and admired him and he’ll always have a special place in my heart and in my family’s heart. Everyone in the University of Connecticut, in the state of Connecticut and every single person in amateur sports owes him a debt of gratitude.

“Even more so, the growth of women’s sports in this country can be directly related to the work that John Toner did to help push forward the Title IX bill. So, I just can’t put into words … words at some point lose their factor, their meaning when you’re describing someone who was a giant in the world of amateur sports. My thoughts and prayers are with Claire and the rest of the family.”

— Geno Auriemma on John Toner

Former AD Toner dies at 91

John F. Silver

John Toner, the man who brought UConn to the Big East in 1979 and hired Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, has died at the age of 91.  

Toner had a distinguished career and was the head football coach for five seasons from 1966 to 1970. He brought varsity women’s athletics to UConn and was a driving force behind the rise of women’s athletics in college.

Toner’s teams won Yankee Conference championships in 1967 and 1970 and had a five-year conference record of 17-6-2. Toner was named Director of Athletics in 1969 and held the position for nearly 20 years, before stepping down in 1987.

Toner made two of the greatest hires in college athletics history within a 12-month span—when he hired Auriemma in the spring of 1985 and Calhoun in the spring of 1986.

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Kevin Ollie to be given Ray Meyer College Coach Of Year Award

UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie will be awarded the Ray Meyer College Coach Of Year Award by the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

According to the UConn press release, “In addition to Ollie, honored at the dinner will be Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell with the Gale Sayers Award, former Miami Dolphins lineman Bob Kuechenburg with The George Connor Award, along with Hall of Fame inductees Dave Diehl, Donovan McNabb, Johnny Musso and Tom Zbikowski from the world of football. From baseball, inductees include Goose Gossage and White Sox legend Minnie Minoso will receive a lifetime achievement award.”

The award is named for Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer, who coached DePaul for 42 years (1942-84) and compiled a 724-354 career record, still 17th on the all-time NCAA coaching list for total wins. Meyer’s teams won the NIT in 1945 and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1943 and 1979. He was the college coach of George Mikan, who went on to become the first of the great NBA big men. Meyer passed away in 2006.

UConn men: Enoch commits to Huskies

John F. Silver

The UConn men’s basketball team received a commitment from Norwalk, Connecticut forward Steven Enoch on Saturday night.

Enoch is a 6-10 PF who will prep this season at St. Thomas Moore.

Enoch announced the news on twitter:

Enoch is the second member of the 2015 class with Roxbury, Massachusetts point guard Jalen Adams the other.